wrap-up


After the course I got to hang around some areas of Tokyo I had not visited before and do some interviews.

My hotel was located in Shinjuku, a modern section popular with tourists.  It was a good place just to walk around.  Even better was a side trip to Harajuku.  This is a place of contrasts and another tourist favorite.  On one side of the train tracks the shopping district is clearly geared to young, tuned-in, media savvy kids and young adults.  Everything is electric and colorful including the self-expressive Decora fashion characterized by color, accessories, layers.  Takeshita Dori (St) is the iconic epicenter.  Below is a pict of a Japanese version of a dollar store (actually ¥100 which equals about $.83 US).

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The more interesting side of Harajuku are the grounds of the Meiji Jinju (Shinto shrine).  You approach it by walking through a typical Japanese gateway (Torii) and then walk along on a beautiful, wide, tree-lined path whose name is the rough equivalent of birth canal.  Along the way is an offering of beautifully painted barrels of sake. image

The other pict here is of a man sweeping the walkway of leaves with the longest broom I have ever seen.  He accomplished this efficiently using wide sweeping strokes.

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This is a lovely place that warrants more time to wander about on some of the other pathways.

The interviews went pretty well.  I met with a writer for a national emergency medical services magazine and an editor for a magazine published by MontBell, a prominent Japanese outdoor gear retailer.  We keep trying to improve our visibility in a place where our ideas may be alien but are met with interest and enthusiasm. I am a minor celebrity to our learners.

As always I have to comment on something mundane that intrigued/puzzled me. While the Japanese drive on the left (L), I noticed that people tend to stay to the right (R) on stairs (reinforced by painted arrows) and to the left on escalators. I saw something similar in Hong Kong (HK) when I visited last year.  My HK host seemed unaware of the discrepancy and he had no explanation when I pointed it out.  Isamu told me driving on the L in Japan had to do with Samuri and how they wore their swords.  I Goggled the question and found that my innocent curiosity is in fact part of a mild tempest in Japan about whether it is okay to walk on escalators.  As an aside to this commentary, here is a link cataloguing the who, what and when about the preferred driving sides around the world.

It is hard to finish these reflections on Japan without mentioning food one last time.

At the end of the course we had a delicious, fresh sushi meal at the restaurant with the automated delivery system that I described in a prior blog.

We also dined on some of the variations of Japanese noodles at several different noodle shops.  My favorite was in a basement restaurant in Shinjuku. There Isamu and I enjoyed a wonderful meal of tempura vegetables and cold soba (buckwheat) noodles.  Rather than supply us with a dollop of wasabi, we got the root and little grater so we could do it ourselves.  Whether or not it really tasted better than the usual fare (I thought so), it added something delightful to the experience.

Our last meal was at a small sushi bar located on a narrow, smoky street in a gamier section of Shinjuku.  The bar was similar to an old American diner, just narrower.  The countertop accommodates 10 people.   The patrons have to squeeze in sideways to gain purchase to the stools.  We sat at the only table, a tiny one, in the back. The food and ambiance capped another wonderful trip nicely.

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No, we did not meet Joseph Merrick there, that’s me.  I moved during a pan shot.

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